Reminiscing about his godfather, the American poet and publisher Stanley Moss—who has just completed a new volume of verse—the singer and essayist Mark Glanville comes to reminisce about his own father, and his ambiguous relationship to Judaism:
Brian Glanville, an emerging London novelist, first met Stanley Moss, a budding New York poet, in Rome in the early 1950s. Dad had not gone to university, and his friendships made in Italy during that time were like those others make at college, influential and enduring.
Stanley’s first collection, The Wrong Angel, wasn’t published until 1966, though it contains poems dating back to 1949. By then my father had already published nine novels, some relating to his time in Italy, others to Jewish family life. One, The Bankrupts, caused a furor, leading to a highly publicized libel suit against the actor David Kossoff, who had accused him of writing an anti-Semitic handbook. The Bankrupts is, in fact, an unremittingly negative portrait of a materialistic north London Jewish family that has forsaken religion and culture, but my father was no self-hating Jew. He was more of a latter-day Moses striking down idolaters. He won the action.
His relationship to Judaism is, however, complex. My grandfather, Selick Goldberg, became James Arthur Glanville and sent him to Charterhouse, an English public school where anti-Semites abounded. Anti-Semitism, perhaps unsurprisingly, defined my father’s sense of his Jewishness, a battle to be constantly fought, sometimes in the street, more often in discussions around the dinner table. My parents held no seders, nor did they observe High Holy Days. I had no bris, no bar mitzvah either. Sigmund Freud, not ha-Kadosh Barukh Hu, was their god, and he had decreed that circumcision would lead to a castration complex.